Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Apr 9 --  At Sea

With no more shore excursions planned, the cruise is, in one sense, over.  All we have to do from here to Florida is relax.  We canceled the last trip [to Grenada from Malaga] and found people who were willing to pay to take our place.  We lost a little money because the euro has declined since we reserved the space a year ago, but we didn’t lose it all.  More importantly, we have no obligation to walk long distances or climb lots of steps.  This has been a difficult cruise because of the walking and climbing.  Uluwatu was not the only place where we struggled to climb hills and stairs.  Still, we have no regrets.

D spent most of today in or on the bed – the stress and exhaustion finally caught up with him.  MA went to the movie and didn’t even bring popcorn home with her.  We had such a good nap that we missed Pub trivia today.  Now that’s relaxing!

TOMORROW -- Athens, Greece

Apr 10 – Athens

We have entered a stretch of days where we will be in port every day.  We are docked in Piraeus today, the closest port to Athens, and will be here tomorrow as well.  We had hoped to take the metro into Athens and have lunch in the Plaka where the cafes and tchotchke shops are, but the temperature was predicted to climb to 62 today and we did not feel like freezing for the sake of lunch.  So, we stayed on board the ghost ship and read and relaxed.

TOMORROW – Day 2 in Athens

Apr 11—Athens Again

It was not as cold today as yesterday – maybe 65 – but we stayed on board anyway.  With an “all aboard” of 3 p.m., we did not want to rush in and out of Athens.  Others who stayed back wandered through Piraeus and said it was a lovely town.  We thanked them for getting our exercise for us.

We were subjected to another mandatory boat drill today. The ship has to conduct them every 30 days or so and everyone has to assemble at the lifeboats.  The nature of this cruise implies that everyone knows the speech by heart, but we all trooped to Deck 3 when instructed.  As far as we know, no new passengers boarded in Athens and we are well below 900 travelers now.

TOMORROW – Katakalon, Greece

Apr 12 – Cute  Katakalon

We visited Katakalon in 2011 and remembered it well.  Of course, there is not too much to remember.  The town consists of two streets which run parallel to the water.  We were told that the shops and restaurants in this part of town open only when a ship is in port.  Even though today was Greek Easter Sunday, almost every store was open.

It is early in the season here and was still a wee bit chilly, but we were brave and walked off the ship and into the town.  It took about 5 minutes.  We did some shopping to support the merchants who came to greet us and then ate lunch at a café at the far end of the street two blocks from our last stop.  We each had salads big enough to be lunch by themselves – a big bowl full of ripe tomatoes, some onion and peppers and a big wedge of feta cheese on top.  There was bread, too, and olive to dip it in.  We also order fried calamari which were as tender as any we have had, certainly much better than the ones at Jimbaran beach a lifetime ago.  Rich and Peg, who ate their way through Ephesus with us, joined us after we had ordered and we had a pleasant conversation while we ate.  The café was filled with both staff and passengers either because it was good or because not all of the others were open.  Lunch was delicious.

We did a bit more shopping for MA on the way back to the ship and had plenty of time before trivia.  D met with the couple who are buying our spaces on the Granada trip and explained as many details as he knew.  They, in turn, said they would have cash to pay for it in a few days.  No problem.

We had trivia at 3:30 and again at 5, so we had no nap today, but we did read a lot.

TOMORROW – Messina, Sicily, Italy

Apr 13 – Munching in Messina, Italy

Compared to Katakolon, Messina is New York City.  It is a metropolis which serves as a major port for Sicily.  As such, there was not a picturesque walk or view to be had when we walked off the ship.  Instead, we were faced with a mixture of old and older buildings and lots of traffic.

D misunderstood Port Expert Barbara’s directions, so we took the long way into the downtown.  Expecting to find cafes and pizzerias, we found office buildings and closed store fronts.  We finally found a locals’ café, Vulkania, advertising pizza and other goodies and went in.  Although there were several people drinking and smoking on the porch, we were the only customers on the inside.  We decided to split a tomato and pesto pizza and had sodas as well.  We had made a good choice because the tomato, pesto and green olive pie was really good.  The small pizza was just the right size for the two of us and at 7-1/2 euros, was a bargain.

D wanted to find a BNL bank so he could withdraw euros at an ATM.  Bank of America has a reciprocal agreement with BNL just as it has with WestPac in Australia.  As a withdrawal from the checking account, the transaction would guarantee a good exchange rate and carry no service fees.  We tried to get directions from the staff at Vulkania, but language barriers prevented an exact path.

We started walking in what we hope was the right direction until we happened upon a tourist information office.  The five staffers there gave a series of contradictory and/or confusing directions, but one person tried to show the location on a map which she gave to D.  We followed the pseudo-directions and found the main square – and all of the quaint cafes.  We also saw quite a few passengers at lunch.  After stopping to admire the clock tower by the church, we walked downhill toward the ship.  Ours was not the most direct route home, but we were still hoping to find the bank.  We didn’t, though, and limped back to the ship at 2:30, passing our cabin steward who was on his way out.


Apr 14 – Neapolitan Specialities

Naples, Italy, is the birthplace of pizza.  The original pizzas were much less exotic than many we see in the States and consisted of tomatoes, a little cheese and maybe some basil.  No pineapple, no chicken, no anchovies.

Barbara had said that the passenger terminal here was nice to walk around in, so we had that as the only item on our agenda.  We hoped to find a bakery there and maybe pizza, but we found neither.  The terminal was big and had very wide aisles.  The shopping was a mix of high end jewelry and fashion mixed with souvenirs.  The crew was very happy with the free wi-fi.

We were disappointed with the terminal and made two abortive attempts to find something to our liking by going down to the street-level areas.  D still wanted to find a BNL bank, as a matter of principle at this point, so MA returned to the cabin to read while D braved the traffic, construction and crowds of Naples.  Naples is a very busy commercial city which comes right to the harbor.  Across from the terminal is an old fort which dominates the area while offices and shops fill the rest of the downtown.  Since it is built on a hill, the walking was all uphill at the beginning.

After a series of starts and stops, D got vague directions from a man on the street.  By sheer luck, he turned at the right cross street and the on to the bank after three more stops for directions and reassurance.  The street was crowded with shoppers very few of whom had HAL written on their faces.  People rushed in every direction but the people D asked for help were sympathetic and polite and spoke better English than he spoke Italian.  Once at the bank, he completed his business in about 90 seconds using an ATM which had offered him a choice of a half-dozen languages.

Returning to the ship was easy because it was all downhill.  He knew he was bound to find water somewhere and knew the ship would not be far away.  He had not seen any pizza shops on the way up the hill so stopped at the first one he saw on the way down and bought a pizza to bring home for lunch; it was like yesterday’s except it had basil leaves, not pesto.  Further down the hill, he stopped at a coffee shop in search of cannoli and found the Neapolitan version, a tube of pastry reminiscent of pie dough filled with crème.  There were three flavors so he bought 4 of each and continued to the ship.

We ate the pizza on the Lido accompanied by sodas from our stash.  The pizza was tasty but would have been much better hot.  On the other hand, this one had been baked in a wood-burning oven and the crust was really flavorful even if a bit soggy as a result of its journey.  Back in the room after lunch, we split a cannoli and decided to share them with the waiters at dinner.

Our Pub Trivia teammate Ramona joined us at the table tonight and, as they say, a good time was had by all.  The waiters were thrilled with the six cannoli we gave them and they decided to split them with some other staff members. After dinner we went to the evening show, a tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John and had a surprisingly good time.  Some of these shows aren’t worth seeing, but this one was good.


Apr 15 – Civitavecchia, Italy

As Piraeus is to Athens, Civitavecchia is to Rome.  Rome is an hour or more from the port city [depending on traffic], but is easily reached by rail, taxi or bus.  We chose option D, none of the above.  An hour on any form of bouncing transportation was more than we could handle and, having been to Rome before, we did not want to spend the day in agony walking around the ancient city.

So….Once again we had a sea day in port.  We talked to others who took a shuttle to town and walked around, but they told us it was still hilly in the city.  We did not want or need to shop and there were apparently no ruins or historical sites nearby, ironic since Civitavecchia means “old city.”

We slept late, had breakfast in the Lido, solved the NYT crossword puzzle and then went to the movies.  Today’s feature was Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love, a collection of stories about relationships, set in Rome.  We recognized sites and scenery from our previous visits most notably a fountain from the Villa d’Este gardens in Tivoli.

Lunch in the Lido ended with conversation with Roger and Barbara.  We talked so long we did not have enough time to do the laundry before trivia.  We went from Trivia to Pub Trivia with just enough time in between to read and update the journal. 

TOMORROW – Approaching Spain


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